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A NAVAL CAREER IN THE EYES OF COLIN ROSS – Pt. 50

2012 was looking to be an exciting year.  We were in the process of arranging the Ancient Mariners to attend the Golden Oldies Festival in Japan in November.  As well we were starting the extensive re-build at the bach in Mangawhai Heads.  We had finally decided to add on so while leaving the upstairs pretty much alone in a bach state we added on out the side to extend the living area, put in a brand new kitchen and also adding on a bedroom and bathroom downstairs.

Kerry happened to mention one day early in the year that maybe it was about time to look at upgrading my Ute.  I had had my Navara since 1998 and it was a well-loved vehicle.  It had just turned over 240,000k so we decided to go down and have a look at what was on offer.  All the second hand Navara were still priced in $30k and had 40,000k plus on the clock so I was about to walk away.

Suddenly a salesman turned up enquiring what we were looking for and then advised that they were selling new Navara RX utes for $35k.  We arranged to have a test drive the following weekend and turned up to a brand new silver RX waiting.  We climbed in and Kerry discovered it had air conditioning and a good radio so she was sold before I even started it.  I was amazed at the power and acceleration it had after being used to my non-turbocharged Navara so after negotiation and discussion it was mine.

You may think I am digressing here but this leads up to what turned out to be the toughest year of my life.  My blood tests for some time had been indicating a raised PSA, which can be an indicator to prostate cancer.  It was inconclusive as some results would be raised and then the next would be lower so the Doctor advised the only real proof was to have a Prostate Biopsy.

So off to Nth Shore Hospital I go and the procedure was carried out.  Not the most comfortable procedure I must admit but when necessary these things need to be tolerated.  Some weeks later I had another appointment and as the results would be in Kerry came as well.

I guess although you are prepared for the results and nervous basically you hope and think for the best.  It was absolutely devastating to be told that yes I had prostate cancer.  The biggest issue is that because you don’t feel unwell you are in a sense unprepared for a doctor to tell you actually you are sick.

The biggest thing about this type of news is not physical.  You are still the same as you were yesterday but someone is telling you there is a life threatening disease alive in your body.  The hardest thing to accept is the mental stress this creates.  I was really on a downer and a couple of days later told Kerry I thought we should cancel our trip to Japan.

The biggest thing I think that got me out of this sense of despair I guess was when Kerry said no we would go as it would possibly be our last overseas trip and we needed to get on with life.  It was the kick in the pants I both deserved but more importantly I needed.  From that day on I think my mental well being was a lot better.  It is always in the back of your mind but it makes you take every day as a plus and get on to enjoy it.

I had a few decisions to make around the road I wanted to take, as there are basically three options.  Surgical removal of the prostate, radiation treatment or wait and watch.  After discussion and consideration I opted for surgical removal.  As we were going to Japan the operation time issue was raised and the doctor advised us to go and enjoy, as it would only delay the operation for a couple of weeks.  I did all the pre-operation prerequisites before we went.

While all this was going on I still had my day job to cope with.  I needed to tell my boss what was happening as I would return from Japan and with-in two weeks would have the operation and be required to go on sick leave.  I can only reinforce how important it is to have sick leave available.  People who just treat it as another form of leave really need to think about what happens when they really require sick leave for its proper purpose.

There was a maintenance period in the middle of the year.  This kept me really busy.  It seemed that every maintenance period on the ANZAC’s always contained element of upgrades.  These were mostly around the communications equipment but also there was the constant requirement of pipe repairs as the ships aged and also there was always maintenance required on either the propulsion diesels or the generating plant.  The biggest difference in these modern warships is the amount of redundancy they have.  Duplication of systems and being able to utilise other systems in a crisis means they really are a complex construction.  With this redundancy and duplication of course comes the added maintenance requirement.  Hand in hand with that is the reduced number of on-board staff there is a greater reliance on shore support and assisted maintenance.

Coupled with these issues is the increased amount of leave these days and the greater number of courses required for advancement.  One of the things this created was that when defects were identified and a job created, the person that created the job would inevitably be on leave or course so you missed that background information on the defect.  This often led to bigger issues than expected when the maintenance was started.  There seemed to be an expectation that we could somehow wave a wand and the parts would appear to correct the issue.

Again there was a lot of satisfaction in researching the background information and then finding the necessary parts with the procurement and delivery a central problem for all maintenance.  It is not generally recognised currently the value of having parts available locally.  The modern business of carry as few parts as possible really works against the delivery of some maintenance.  NZ is as far from the originating producers and coupled with the fact that these firms often don’t have the parts on the shelf anyway and there is also a time frame for delivery and this created some pretty sleepless nights of worry.

We got through this maintenance, the bach was finished and we were really impressed with the standard of workmanship.  Also the trip had come together in the end.  We had decided that with Ali and Sue Blair we would have three weeks in China then go to Fukuoka in Japan for the festival.  After the festival, Kerry and I had planned a week to work our way from Fukuoka to arrive in Tokyo and our flight home.

The most difficult part of the planning was to get the China section planned and also apply for a visa for China.  We were also concerned that we hadn’t had confirmation of our tour plan of China to find out late in the piece that it wasn’t confirmed because our internal air flights hadn’t been booked.  Everyone was thinking the other agent was doing it, so once that was sorted we had the travel documents and applied for our visas.  This also turned out to be a challenge.  If you didn’t have all the T’s crossed and the I’s dotted then it would not be accepted.  So arriving at the Chinese Embassy with our documentation we were full of anxiety as there was not a lot of time before we were supposed to depart.  Everything went according to plan and we soared off in early October.

We flew into Hong Kong and had three days there.  This was really a trip down memory lane for Ali and I.  We couldn’t believe the changes.  We did a huge amount of walking, but decided to do a bus tour.  We travelled through Wan chai and didn’t even know we were there it had changed so much.  We also took the tram to the peak.  That was full of changes as well, you could shop and eat at different levels and it was a far cry from the basic trip to the top I remembered from 1970.

We had decided to take the train from Hong Kong to Beijing.  This was an inspired choice as it allowed us to see a lot of the country as well as perhaps the less savoury parts of the cities we travelled through.  A lot of the trip was at night but sleep was far from my mind as every station we travelled through was full of interest.  The stations were huge and it didn’t matter the time of night they seemed to be teeming with people.

Arriving in Beijing was like arrival at an airport, as we had to go through all the normal customs arrival procedures.  I had thought we would either have done them in Hong Kong or stopped at what was the old border and do them there, but no it was Beijing.  The formalities over we proceeded through and met our guide.  We were now in China proper and looking forward to a new experience.

To be continued.

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